News / Asia

India's Bootleg Liquor Exacts Human Toll

A man buys illegal "country liquor," also known as "hooch," in Allahabad, India, Dec. 15, 2011.
A man buys illegal "country liquor," also known as "hooch," in Allahabad, India, Dec. 15, 2011.
Kurt Achin

Police in India's West Bengal state say they have arrested a key figure responsible for distributing poisonous homemade alcohol that killed scores of people last year.

Illegal alcohol is a widespread problem in India, where it offers short-term relief from life's hardships, but takes a heavy toll on health.

Habibul Gazi, for example, will never be able to see again. Doctors say his optic nerves have been irrevocably damaged by consuming illegally produced toxic alcohol.

"I asked him to stop drinking, but he never listened," says his distraught wife via translator, explaining that he beat her during arguments about drinking. Now, she says, her family is ruined.

Class and caste

The notion of moderate social drinking has taken root primarily among India's elite and emerging wealthy classes. But in areas where life is much harder, so is the drinking.

The government taxes alcohol heavily, in part to discourage binge consumption. But former tax official Bijay Chakrabarty says the high taxes only drive many people to consume the so-called "hooch."

"Now a poor man cannot afford licit liquor when hooch is available at such a cheap price," he says. "Moreover, licit liquor is available only at fixed places licensed by government, whereas hooch liquor [has] no fixed place. At every nook and corner of a village or a town you can have it."

Small illegal hooch-producing operations are numerous and often spring up just as quickly as they are swept away.

Makers of hooch, also called "country liquor," use a very crude distillation process that can leave a lot of impurities in the final product. They sometimes add chemical extenders, even fuel products, that can produce deadly consequences.

In December, headlines abounded with reports of at least 150 people dying in West Bengal after consuming illegal liquor laced with methanol.

Many ordinary Bengalis, like school teacher Hasanuzzaman Mollah, are skeptical of government promises to crack down on the country liquor industry.

"Many hooch joints are running in front of police stations, right in front of police," he says via translator. "They even get support from police in their illegal dealings."

Indian officials hope to convince more of its poorer citizens that the attraction of alcohol that costs only pennies can carry a very high human cost.

But for Saharun Bibi, whose husband earned a modest income as a tailor before he was killed by homemade liquor, government efforts are too little and too late.

"My husband left nothing to help raise our eight children," she says via translator, adding that she is clueless about how to marry off her daughters and feed the family.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid